female entrepreneur

Thoughts From Female Entrepreneurs: What It Means To Be A Woman In Business

As National Entrepreneurship Month ends, we wanted to focus on a specific portion of the innovation demographic: female entrepreneurs.

While women-owned businesses in the United States are fewer, smaller, and bring in less revenue on average than male-owned companies[1], they are steadily gaining traction. An estimated 11.3M businesses are owned by women in the United States.[2] These companies employ about 9M people, bringing in $1.6T of revenue. Women make up 47% of the national workforce, control 51% of U.S. personal wealth, and are the primary source of income in 40% of U.S. households[3].

In Minnesota, female entrepreneurship is on the rise. The number of businesses majority owned by women has increased ten-fold since 1972 to 157,821 companies in 2012, employing 182,229 workers and generating $24.6B in revenue., according to research by Minnesota Business Magazine, Tech.Co, American Express OPEN research, and the Survey of Business Owners. While gaining traction, women in business still have a long way to go. A 20% pay gap still exists in the U.S. between men and women. In 2014, only 10% of U.S. startups that received Series A funding had a female founder. Currently, only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs[4].

Rochester itself has at least one hundred female business owners operating in a wide range of industries including retail, hospitality, food, and tech. Here’s what some of these women had to say about being a woman in business.

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[1] https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/Womens-Business-Ownership-in-the-US.pdf

[2] American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report of 2016

[3] 2012 Survey of Business Owners from the U.S. Small Business Administration

[4] http://fortune.com/2017/06/07/fortune-500-women-ceos/

Rochester Home Infusion Seeking Ground in Destination Medical City- Part 2, The Ask

Missed Part 1 of this story? Click here for the first of this two part series on Rochester Home Infusion.

Rochester Home Infusion Founder Joselyn Raymundo. Photo courtesty of Rochester Home Infusion.

Rochester Home Infusion Founder Joselyn Raymundo. Photo courtesty of Rochester Home Infusion.

Rochester Home Infusion (RHI) Founder Joselyn Raymundo and her team strive to provide their patients with the best care possible so they can achieve some sense of normalcy.

“What matters is the patient," she tells her team. "They’re the ones who are sick. They’re the ones who may be having financial difficulties, medical crises, family crises. It touches so many aspects of their lives.”

RHI is currently licensed in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado. Raymundo hopes to soon move into markets in Nebraska, North Dakota, and Michigan to cover seventy percent of patients who travel to Rochester for the Mayo Clinic.

She says RHI has taken the time to understand the patient experience at Mayo and is well poised to deliver that final, positive impression.

“We can augment the Mayo experience. We can collaborate with [Mayo] and deliver something very special. Not just for the patient, but also for Mayo Clinic,”
 she stated.

RHI utilizes an extensive clinical monitoring program to extend medical expertise from the hospital to the home.

“We try to really, truly respect what the patient needs and what the hospital needs,” Raymundo said.

When a Mayo Clinic patient requires an infusion, they are given the option to use the clinic’s Infusion Therapy Center (ITC) or a home infusion service. RHI should be included on a list of in-home providers- alongside giants like CVS, BioFusion, and Option Care- which is then given to the patient.

RHI clean room. Photo courtesty of Rochester Home Infusion.

RHI clean room. Photo courtesty of Rochester Home Infusion.

If RHI is chosen as the provider, Clinical Nurse Manager Kris Gillard arrives at the hospital within an hour to instruct the patient about their medication and how to infuse at home. If the patient lives in Rochester, Gillard would then visit their home at least once a week to assess and monitor recovery with a carefully curated list of questions and measurements. Then, RHI pharmacist Steven Ly follows up with a phone call.

If a patient does not live in Rochester, RHI works with a local nursing agency provider and again supplies the attending nurse with list of questions to ask and measurements to take to ensure that patients are recovering and to address potential relapse as quickly as possible.

“That prevents rehospitalization and ER visits. It’s good, all around, for everybody,” Raymundo explained.

To launch RHI and fill a healthcare gap in southeastern Minnesota, Raymundo took a huge risk in relocating her entire family- three kids and a husband- to Rochester. RHI was the first and only medically-focused tenant in the BioBusiness Center with absolutely no ties to Mayo Clinic.

“Nobody ever asked me to come here. And I didn’t ask anyone’s permission,” she said. Raymundo self-funded the whole business, taking money from no one to launch her vision.

Now, she’s just asking for a fair shot and working to raise awareness that an alternative to the ITC exists in Rochester. She says RHI is not in competition with Mayo; it would be a major success to even get a small fraction of the clinic’s infusion patients.

“ITC is not for everybody. Some patients actually would want to go back to work sooner. Some patients cannot even drive to get there,” she explained.

Unfortunately, RHI does not always get presented to patients as a viable option.

“Awareness is big. Just being given a fair chance. We’re not asking for any special treatment from anybody. We just want to be presented to patients in a way that is objective so they are aware that they have options,” explained Raymundo.

She says that Mayo needs to create a more competitive environment for people following some of their patients, like RHI.

“If they make it competitive, then everybody will be trying to do their best to outdo each other,” she said.

The Destination Medical Center draw pulled Raymundo to Rochester in the first place. However, she says DMC needs local success stories to inspire other entrepreneurs, especially those without ties to Mayo, to pick up and move to Rochester.

She thinks DMC needs a homerun with a large company.

“But guess what? That’s not how it’s built. You need to hit a lot of singles. …You need a lot of people like me to hit the singles. That creates the entrepreneurial environment. And I’m trying to get the double. I’m sprinting for the double but I’m kind of in a pickle,” she said.

Raymundo could easily move her family back to the Twin Cities and commute to Rochester for her business. But she wants to be part of the community, including all the ups and downs.

“Because if you’re part of the community, then you’re invested. And if you’re invested, then you really take it to heart what your community’s trying to establish,” she explained.

Press Release: MedCity Doulas Team Growing

MedCity Doulas has scaled their team to five independently contracted doulas. Since their inception in July 2017, owners Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker have been striving to educate the market on the benefits of doulas providing unbiased support for all families. With this recent growth, MedCity Doulas has expanded their services and increased their availability. One step closer to seeing a doula in every birth room!

Rochester's Female Entrepreneurs Start Something at Women's Demo Night

Rochester Rising’s first event, Women’s Demo Night, was meant to demonstrate the emergence of entrepreneurs in Rochester and highlight the strong female leadership the city can look towards. Demo nights are usually tech-centric events, where entrepreneurs walk through how their product works to provide an innovative solution. While the four female entrepreneurs who spoke at Women’s Demo Night may not have all been fully in the tech field, they completely represented the diversity and range of Rochester’s innovation community right now. This is another step forward in sharing the stories of the people taking risks in Rochester and demonstrating that people are stepping forward and starting things in this city. These are the stories we feel need to be told.


Shruthi Naik, Founder and VP, Comparative Oncology at Vyriad


Vyriad is an expanding biopharmaceutical company in Rochester that’s utilizing technology developed in the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Molecular Medicine to treat cancer. Vyriad’s oncolytic viral therapies are delivered through Vesicular Stomatitis Virus and measles oncolytic platforms. Patients receive the treatments intravenously, allowing the virus to selectively infect and amplify within tumor cells. Infected tumor cells are eventually killed by the virus and the resultant tumor fragments cleaned up by the immune system to eradicate the cancer. Vyriad partnered with Mayo Clinic for preclinical studies of their therapies. The company’s products are currently at the clinical stage. Vyriad has several clinical trials running or soon to launch treating patients with a variety of cancers including: solid tumors, multiple myeloma, T cell lymphoma, and lung and bladder cancers. Many of these trials will be run at Mayo Clinic. One patient, Stacy Erholtz, has been particularly vocal about her treatment experience with Vyriad therapeutics. Erholtz battled multiple myeloma for ten years, received two bone marrow transplants, and failed every available therapy. She participated in a clinical trial as a last resort, receiving a single high dose of the Vyriad measles platform. Erholtz went into remission following treatment and has been cancer free for three years.


Brittany Baker and Amanda Steele, Owners of MedCity Doulas


Doulas offer physical, emotional, and educational support for women during pregnancy, birth, and post-partum. Doulas are distinct from midwives and receive no medical school training. Instead, they can work to make the birth process a positive experience through things like holding the mother’s hand and offering words of encouragement. Post-partum doulas can aid mothers anywhere from six weeks to two years after birth. These doulas provide education, especially for first time mothers, and work to complement the support and parenting style already in place. Post-partum doulas may also make meals, grocery shop, do laundry, and provide any other help a new mom needs. Baker and Steele founded MedCity Doulas in July 2016 as a doula agency to help decrease the doula burnout rate- which is two years outside of the agency model- and elevate other women in the profession. Steele has been a doula for six years and has a Health Education background. Baker has a background in design and learned about doulas during her second pregnancy, where Steele was her doula. MedCity Doulas is currently in the building and education phase. Only 5% of mothers currently receive doula care. Baker and Steele hope to increase that number to 40% over the next five years. Now, they’re tasked with educating their market and explaining how all mothers could benefit from a doula.


Alaa Koleilat, Founder of GoAudio

Twenty percent of Americans report some degree of hearing loss. However, they are often unaware of the full degree of hearing reduction due to low screening rates in the United States. Hearing tests are performed in elementary school children, but hearing threshold levels in adults are not examined until noticeable loss occurs. Once hearing is damaged it cannot be regained, making hearing loss prevention pivotal. Mayo Graduate student Alaa Koleilat and her team of Mayo Clinic specialists hope to solve this problem with GoAudio. Koleilat’s graduate research centers on genetic hearing loss; she looks to take her passion to patients with GoAudio. GoAudio uses iPad technology and noise cancelling headphones to provide portable, accessible hearing screening. The GoAudio app examines hearing threshold levels in users, asking them to press down and hold a button until a certain tone can no longer be head. The higher the threshold level recorded, the more challenging it is for the patient to hear that tone. The GoAudio team aims to have their screening tool implemented as part of an annual physical exam. The product is still in the early developmental stages, with the major focus on functionality. GoAudio hopes to soon launch a pilot study at Mayo Clinic comparing results from the app to hearing tests administered by audiologists. Koleilat says there are numerous applications for this product, perhaps even a suite of medical screening tools.


Tessa Leung, CEO of Grand Rounds Brewing Company

Grand Rounds CEO and Stewartville native Tessa Leung has been an entrepreneur in Rochester for a long time. Leung has a BSN/RN degree and worked as a nurse for several years at Mayo Clinic. However, she always dreamed of being a chef. After six years in medicine, Leung attended the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and studied to become a level two sommelier. In 2006, she opened a restaurant called Sontes in downtown Rochester and runs a wine shop, called Tessa’s Office. When Sontes closed its doors, the 150-year-old space was revamped and reopened as Grand Rounds Brewing Company on April 15, 2015. Most readers have (hopefully) tasted some locally brewed craft beer. But how much do you know about the brewing process? As Leung explained, beer is an alcoholic beverage that’s made from malted cereal grain- called barley- gets flavored by hops, and is brewed by slow fermentation with yeast. There are two types of beers: ales and lagers. Grand Rounds primarily brews ales, using a warm fermentation system and top fermenting yeast. Several key ingredients go into making beer, including: water, roasted barley, hops, and of course yeast. Water is highly regional and can really make or break a product. Rochester’s water has some of the highest mineral content in the US, which Leung said can be problematic to brew certain styles of beer. Hops, which Leung says are getting increasingly more difficult to source, provide flavor, bitterness, and smells to the beer. The Grand Rounds brewing process begins bright and early, at 6AM, and includes equipment like a boil kettle, wort chiller, and mash tun. Grand Round’s fermentation chiller, the place where the yeast is added, is actually a white wine fermenter. Leung explained that the normal conical beer fermenters would not fit with the shape of the building, so they had to get creative “because that’s what entrepreneurs do.” The ingredients are crushed, boiled, separated, extracted, pumped, fermented, and carbonated to get to the final product. Leung recommends consuming craft beer within four to six weeks after carbonation for the freshest taste.

Thanks to the Women's Demo Night Sponsors:

Rochester Rising and RAEDI to Present at Next 1 Million Cups Rochester

Join the entrepreneurial and small business community at the next 1 Million Cups Rochester on Wednesday April 5th from 9-10AM. This month, one Rochester based business will speak. We’ll also hear about an economic development fund that’s been fueling business growth in the city.

About Rochester Rising

Rochester Rising is an online news site that tells the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs through original, insightful articles and podcasts. Rochester Rising was launched to fill a hole in local media coverage and provide a voice to the city’s emerging entrepreneurial community.

Launched in: 2016

Founder: Amanda Leightner


About Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI)

RAEDI assists new and existing companies in Rochester obtain funding for business growth. Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, will speak about the Rochester Economic Development Fund, which RAEDI utilizes to make investments up to $250,000 to assist in business development, diversify the local economy, create jobs, and generate property tax revenue.

About 1 Million Cups

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 114 US communities to support and encourage entrepreneurs. The program is based on the idea that entrepreneurs connect and discover solutions over one million cups of coffee.

Find more information and register for the event here.

Time is Ripe for Rochester Female Entrepreneurs

Rochester Rising emerged from a need to tell the stories that nobody else in Rochester was telling and to chronicle the rise of entrepreneurism and innovation in the city. Rochester is certainly best known as a town for medical advancement, which drew in many of its current residents. But the city has so much more to offer than one industry and is starting to gain a critical mass of entrepreneurs.

Perhaps there has been no better time to be a female entrepreneur in Rochester, or Minnesota, than right now. The number of female-majority owned businesses has increased ten-fold since 1972, now accounting for 40% of all US companies. A total of 157,821 businesses in Minnesota are now owned by women, employing 182,229 people and bringing in $24.6B in annual revenue. While the total number of Minnesota companies decreased 1% between 2007-2012, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 18% during this time.

However, female entrepreneurs still have a long way to go. A 22% pay gap exists between men and women in the United States. In 2014, only 10% of US startups that received Series A funding contained female founders. Women-owned businesses make up only 32% of all Minnesota companies, accounting for only 8% of the state’s paid employees and generating only 4.4% of Minnesota’s annual business revenue.



Rochester itself has over 100 women-owned businesses including: Rochester Rising, The Urban Studio, Rochester Home Infusion, Tinua, Area 10 Labs, Café Steam, White Space, Yoga Tribe, Studio on Third, Rochester MN Moms Blog, LegitB Marketing, Irie Kennels, Good Dog Camp, Shear Envy, North Star Bar, Sola Salon, Hesby Professional Services, EDGE FITNESS, TerraLoco, ERH Developing Inc., and Erin Young Portrait Design. Since the founding of Rochester Rising in July of last year, we’ve told the stories of 73 different emerging businesses in Rochester, 23 of which were women-led or had a woman as a founding member.

The number of women entrepreneurs in the city may be small, but they are strong and growing. Being a female business owner myself, we tried to fill a gap during Global Entrepreneurship Week held in Rochester last November and held a Women in Business Breakfast at Bleu Duck Kitchen (which has a female owner, by the way). The event brought out over 65 members of our female business community. The breakfast was such a success, we felt something like this had to happen again to supplement the needs of the city’s female entrepreneurs.

Tomorrow, Rochester Rising is bringing the first ever Demo Night to the city, talking about beer, babies, and biotechnology. Demo Nights are typically tech focused events, where entrepreneurs walk through how their product works to provide a distinct solution and are ways to demonstrate what’s going on within an entrepreneurial community. Our Demo Night tomorrow features four female entrepreneurs from a range of industry and expertise including: Shruti Naik from the biotech cancer startup Vyriad, Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker of MedCity Doulas, Alaa Koleilat of the Mayo Clinic healthtech startup GoAudio, and seasoned food and beverage entrepreneur Tessa Leung of Grand Rounds Brewing Company.



We believe that this collection of female innovators exemplifies the diversity and versatility of Rochester’s growing entrepreneurial community right now. Demo Night is a way to share the stories of these women and start to bring to light the creativity and leadership occurring within our city.

The Rochester Startup Part Seven: Jeremiah Program Brings Transformative, Multi-Generational Approach to Rochester Families

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Program.

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Program.

About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.

This series is in partnership with Ambient House Productions, a Rochester based full service video production company specializing in high quality corporate, commercial, & promotional videos.

Expanding beyond its headquarters in Minneapolis, Jeremiah Program has brought its multi-generational commitment to transforming the lives of single mothers and their children to the Rochester area. Founded in 1993, the organization currently runs two fully operational sites in the Twin Cities. A new campus will open in Austin, Texas in March 2017 and ground will be broken on a Fargo, N.D.-Moorhead, Minn. campus by summer 2017. In addition to their ongoing work in southeastern Minnesota, Jeremiah Program has engaged with leading organizations to serve mothers and children in Boston and is also exploring growth options in Brownsville, N.Y. and Charlottesville, Va.

JoMarie Morris, who practiced law for nearly 20 years prior to assuming the role of Executive Director of Jeremiah Program Rochester-Southeastern Minnesota, was compelled to join the organization following years of work focused on immigration, women’s issues, and human trafficking.

“The element of Jeremiah Program that really captured my heart is the fact that it’s a two-generation program,” said Morris. “It’s an amazing organization and I’m all in on our mission to serve the families of southeastern Minnesota.”

She initially joined the program as a replication consultant, working with an advisory committee to help create partnerships, assess the needs of the community, and determine whether Rochester would be a good fit for the program.

Jeremiah Program’s organizational model is predicated on five pillars to assist women and their children: support for a career-track college education, quality early childhood education, safe and affordable housing, empowerment and life skills training, and a supportive community.

These strategies are intended to reduce generational dependence on public assistance and help single mothers move into high-demand, living-wage jobs.

JoMarie identified “the enormous need for skilled workers in the Rochester area,” and is partnering with community and business leaders to help program participants move off of public assistance into sustainable jobs.

To achieve this, program participants engaged in empowerment training, work toward obtaining a two- or four-year degree under the guidance of professional coaches and secure employment through the support of Jeremiah Program staff and their communities. While mothers in the program study and work, their children attend the Program’s early childhood education centers that help to establish the proper foundation for their academic success.

“Waiting lists are long for Head Start programs and it can be difficult for children to catch up,” Morris said. “Our programs ensure that children are kindergarten-ready.”

Presently, JoMarie is working to secure a Rochester campus site with the capacity to house up to forty families, identify additional collaborative partners, and increase program sustainability as the organization fulfills its mission of service “not only to Rochester, but also to its many neighboring communities.”

A key factor in the program’s early success has been in its ability to utilize incubator space at the Rochester Area Foundation, allowing Jeremiah Program to effectively operate while building relationships within the community, collaborate with city and business leaders, and search for their permanent program home.

“The space offered by the Rochester Area Foundation has been fabulous as a transitional space and has been great as a way for us to work and collaborate with other community organizations,” Morris said.

Jeremiah Program has already garnered substantial grants from Mayo Clinic and the Otto Bremer Foundation, and has received significant assistance from the Rochester community to advance program efforts.

For more information, visit www.jeremiahprogram.org/rochester.

The "Rochester Startup" Series is Sponsored by:

Rochester Rising Presents Rochester's First Women's Demo Night

Introducing Rochester’s very first Women’s Demo Night. Rochester Rising will host the premier event March 22nd from 6-8PM at the Rochester Area Foundation. We are currently seeking innovative, women-led businesses to showcase their products.

Worship TeamAuditions.jpg

What is a demo night?

Demo night is an opportunity to showcase emerging entrepreneurs and novel products which were developed right here in Minnesota, especially in our women-led companies and startups. Each business with use six minutes to tell their story, explain the unique solution their product provides, and demonstrate how their product works. Presenting companies will also field a few questions from the audience. At the end of the program, these women-led businesses can interact and network even more with the audience at their own tables around the venue.


Who should apply to present?

Any woman-led business that has an innovative product, is solving a real problem, and has a product that would make an engaging live demonstration should apply. The product does not have to be “live” or on the market. It just must work by March 22nd. The product can be web-based. Businesses in all types of industry are encouraged to apply.

Applications will close on March 1st.


Who should attend?

Everyone! This is not just an event for women. It’s an event for all entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, business owners, students, and interested members of the community. Tickets are on sale now.



How do I apply to present?

We are looking for four women-led businesses to showcase their products. Click here to fill out a brief survey explaining why your business is a good fit.


Are you interested in sponsoring the event?

We are also looking for sponsors to help make this event even better. Please contact Amanda for more information.

How to Grow a Web-Based Business with Rochester MN Moms Blog's Becky Montpetit

I recently got to pick the brain of Becky Montpetit, Founder of Rochester MN Moms Blog, and learn techniques she has used to successfully grow and raise awareness of her business. Rochester MN Moms Blog began just over one year ago as a parenting website that’s dedicated to Rochester, Minnesota and our community of mothers.  


1.     What has been the most successful way you have found to quickly raise brand awareness?

One of the best ways I have found to grow brand awareness was to utilize the networks that I already had.  I spoke to organizations I was already involved in, or organizations my friends were involved in.  I engaged professional networks to convey our mission and goals.  Besides that, I simply continuously provided trustworthy, timely and relevant information on a very consistent basis.  


2.     What techniques has Rochester MN Moms Blog used to gain customers (or readers in your case)?      

One of the best ways we have found to gain readers in our community is to figure out what information they are looking for and provide creative and enticing ways to provide that information.  A helpful way to do this is to create reader polls to ask what they need or what information they had access to.  In some cases, the information may already exist but it's just not so easy to access. We work on bridging that gap.


3.     What techniques have you found to be successful to grow a Facebook audience?

Consistency is key.  At any given point, your readers only see 1/4 to 1/3 of what you post.  So if you post once a day on Facebook...the chances are quite good they will not even see the fantastic content you are producing simply due to Facebook algorithms. The more we post relevant, timely, and trustworthy information, the more readers will engage with our content therefore expanding our reach and effectively growing our audience.


4. What web-based service do you use to manage your business?

Great question!  My team relies on Trello for effective communication and implementation of goals. I also use HoneyBook for building proposals and sending and receiving agreement and invoices.  I also use Slack on the City Moms Blog Network National team (I am the social media coordinator for the City Moms Blog Network).


Rochester Rising Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to make News Site a Sustainable Part of the Community

Rochester Rising is launching a crowdfunding campaign, starting today, to make this news site a sustainable part of the community. You can become a supporter by clicking here to be re-directed to the Rochester Rising Patreon site. It’s crowdfunding, so of course there are prizes for contributing to the campaign! There are seven different incentive levels, including advertisement for businesses and startups.

  • At a $25/month, a startup or emerging small business gets one week of advertisement per month on the Rochester Rising homepage.
  • At $100/month a, more established, local business or nonprofit gets one week of advertisement per month on the Rochester Rising homepage.


What is Rochester Rising?

Hopefully this is not your first visit here, but if it is I hope it’s not your last. Rochester Rising is an online-only news site that delivers in-depth, insightful, original articles and podcasts about the entrepreneurial and emerging small business sectors in Rochester, Minnesota.

I told my story as a new entrepreneur here just a few weeks ago. But Rochester Rising was really started to fill a gap in news coverage in our community. We have a very young, but emerging entrepreneurial community here in Rochester. We have a great bioscience and medical community here, and some of these entrepreneurs are operating in that industry. But we also have so much more. We have tech entrepreneurs, food and beverage entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, student entrepreneurs, and innovative non-profits. We have a growing small business community. People here are really starting to take risks and put themselves out there, but no one is talking about it.

Rochester Rising gives our innovators and entrepreneurs a voice. It’s a place to tell the stories of our risk-takers, both the good parts and the bad. And hopefully it’s a place that will inspire change through words and motive others to start something, no matter how small.


Why Should you Care?

Rochester Rising is not out to craft click bait headlines. Not every story will be of interest to everyone. But there’s something here for anyone interested in community development, entrepreneurship, innovation, and business development in Rochester and even beyond this city. There’s something here for everyone who wants to be inspired. These are the stories that we feel need to be told.

There’s no large production team behind Rochester Rising. It’s just me. One person. I do all the writing, editing, podcasting, web development, sales, marketing, business development, etc. I am currently not financed by any promotional or business development entities in town. It’s just me trying to make this work long enough to make a difference.


What’s Crowdfunding and What’s in it For Me?

Crowdfunding is a way to raise small amounts of money from a large number of people. People who financially back a product or business through crowdfunding typically get some type of reward. Most people are probably more familiar with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where supporters make a one-time financial contribution and the fundraising campaign ends in 30-60 days.

I’m using a different crowdfunding platform called Patreon. These campaigns last until the creator (me in this case) ends them. And instead of the one-time financial support, supporting patrons give a monthly financial contribution. So it’s more similar to an MPR-like model where supporters, or patrons in this case, give however much they want each month to the business.

Besides just knowing that you’re helping to make Rochester Rising a sustainable part of the community here, there are seven other incentive levels for patrons contributing monthly to the campaign. Here’s what Rochester Rising patrons will receive:

  • For $1/month: A special “I support Rochester Rising” sticker + access to patron-only teasers about upcoming interviews. These teasers can be accessed on the Patreon website or mobile app.
  • For $5/month: All of the above incentives + access to patron-only weekly, exclusive Rochester Rising content. This content is will be available through the Patreon website or app.
  • For $10/month: All of the above incentives + one Rochester Rising coffee mug.
  • For $15/month: All of the above incentives + one Rochester Rising T-shirt + the ability to submit questions for upcoming interviews (through the Patreon website or app).
  • For $25/month: All of the above incentives + tickets to an exclusive live taping of a Rochester Rising roundtable podcast + 1 week/month of free advertising for a startup or emerging small business on the Rochester Rising homepage.
  • $50/month: All of the above incentives + one surprise sent to you in the mail each month from me! + 1 free month of Collider Community membership ($20 value).
  • $100/month: All of the above incentives + listing as a Founding Patron on Rochester Rising (if you want) + 1 free week/month of free advertising for a local business or non-profit on the Rochester Rising homepage.


Check out the Patreon page for more information on how the money will be spent and to become a patron.

Any amount really helps Rochester Rising continue to exist. If you have read some of the articles or listen to the podcasts and have learned even one thing, please consider become a patron. If you really see the value of having something like this in the community, or if you even know me personally and believe in me, consider helping to make this a voice for entrepreneurship.


The Backstory of Rochester Rising: What Everyone Should Know

I have been told several times that I need to share my story and the story of Rochester Rising, which are one and the same. Here is my journey, told to the best of my ability. I ask others to tell their personal stories every day. So I guess this is only fair.

I never thought that I would be an entrepreneur. That thought still terrifies me a little bit every day.

Five years ago, I was toiling away behind a lab bench deep within the Mayo Clinic. The only vague image I might have connected to the term “entrepreneur” would have been something like a Mark Zuckerberg. Two years ago, I might have entertained the idea that I could be an entrepreneur one day, but probably would not have fully believed in that possibility.

I think it’s funny how as an adult you somehow find your way back to things you were passionate about as a child. My very first professional ambition, that I can remember, was to be a trainer of Shamu. I’m not sure how that one didn’t pan out, but it was a no-go. Most adults I knew growing up probably would have thought I would become either a librarian or a writer. I loved to read. I loved to read more than I loved to do just about anything else. Except maybe write. I remember writing, editing, and producing a magazine with some friends that we sold to our grandparents during elementary school.  

Eventually, I decided to try a “more practical” career and pursued a degree in biological sciences at a university in Pittsburgh close to where I grew up. A few years later, I found myself at the Mayo Clinic for my first graduate school rotation, working towards a PhD in molecular biology. But not the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I don’t think I confidently even knew where Minnesota was on a map at that point. Somewhere in the middle?

An advisor told me that I should at least experience the Rochester campus for a short period of time. So I took a short plane ride from Jacksonville to Pittsburgh and caravanned west with my parents. I drove my car. My parents drove a slightly frightening, unmarked, white van full of second hand furniture.

I was only going to stay in Minnesota for seven months. It’s been nine years. By some twist of fate that I still don’t quite understand, I never made it back to Florida. I stayed in Rochester for the next six years to finish my graduate degree.

The majority of the time I was working on my studies, I knew that science just wasn’t for me. I was not driven to get up every day, go into the lab, and answer questions through experiments. Why didn’t I just quit? I guess I really didn’t know how. I felt that I had gone so far, I just had to finish. A great role model once told me that no matter what happened, no one could ever take away your education.

I even went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship in Minneapolis because I didn’t know what to do with my life. While everyone else was moving forward around me, I felt that I was standing still or even getting left behind. Like so many people that I’ve told the stories of here, I felt that my life needed to change and the only person able to make that change was myself.

I remember one snowy, cold Saturday not too long ago, when I drove to Rochester to talk with Jamie Sundsbak, a Rochester entrepreneur who had started BioAM, a networking and supportive group for life science entrepreneurs in Rochester. Jamie and I had worked together for several years at the Mayo Clinic, in the same lab, while I did my graduate work. I drove to Rochester to tell him about this great experience I had just finished up with Life Science Alley, now Medical Alley Association, an organization that supports and advocates for health technology companies in Minnesota. I had loved working with Life Science Alley and I wanted to understand more about life science businesses in Minnesota.

One month later, Jamie called to ask me if I would help him build out a news site for BioAM with a small team of people. The website would, in a sense, bring BioAM to life in the digital space and give a voice to life science entrepreneurship that was taking place in Rochester as well as Minneapolis, where I was living at the time. Later, we spun this website out into a separate entity from BioAM and called it Life Science Nexus.

I loved working on Life Science Nexus. It felt like I was finally able to regain access to that creative side of me and use my words and abilities to tell the stories of others. Others who were doing amazing, risky things. For close to a year I took the bus into Minneapolis for work from my home in the Twin Cities suburbs. During that hour long bus ride I’d read, write, type, and interview people on the phone. I’d fire up the laptop again in the evenings when I got home.

Late nights, long weekends, and juggling multiple jobs is not a unique story for an entrepreneur. For me, it came time to make a decision of what to do with my life. Continuing to do research was not an option; I had no passion for it. So it was either time to take a huge leap of faith and move into Life Science Nexus full time or I needed to take my writing and project management skills behind some other business shield.

I’m pretty sure you all know what happened or no one would be reading this right now.

I left my job in science and moved back to Rochester this past spring for a role that offered no pay and no security. But it offered freedom and a chance to do something that I felt could actually make a difference.

It was a slow and scary process to get reintroduced to this new side of Rochester, one that existed beyond the science bench. During those first few months, I realized that Rochester had tremendously changed in the three years that I had been gone. There was actually an entrepreneurial community. People were taking risks. They were starting things. And things were happening not just in bioscience, but in all different kinds of industries. Rochester had food entrepreneurs. We had beverage entrepreneurs. We had high tech entrepreneurs. We had social entrepreneurs. We had a growing small business community. These people were doing amazing, risky things, but no one was really talking about it. I wanted to change that.

A few months ago, Life Science Nexus was rebranded as Rochester Rising to amplify the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs and showcase the unique flavor of our innovation and small business community.

I truly believe in the power of words to cause change. Rochester Rising is a place not only to tell the stories of innovation that are happening right now in our community. I hope that it also is a place that inspires change. I hope that it motivates others to just start something, no matter how small. I want Rochester Rising to be a place that encourages support for our entrepreneurs, these people who are really putting themselves out there.

Rochester Rising is a one stop operation. It’s just me. There’s no production team. There’s no editorial staff. It’s just me. I do all of the writing, editing, interviewing, podcasting, audio editing, photography, sales, marketing, and business development. Besides having an encouraging environment of like-minded entrepreneurs to work alongside in Collider, I have no current financial backing from any promotional or developmental organizations in town.

It’s just me trying to make this thing survive long enough to make a difference and hopefully long enough to become an engrained pillar in our community. We have great people fighting to make a difference in this community. It’s time we are all heard. 

Rochester Rising is here for the community. If you would like to support this website and help it to continue to exist, there are two options. You can become a monthly supporter through Patreon or make a lump sum contribution through the Rochester Rising website. 

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery: the Family Business with Strong Minnesotan Ties

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery, a family owned business in Spring Valley, has garnered national attention. This restaurant, vineyard, and cidery is Minnesotan to its core, from the people to the products.

Launching businesses is nothing new to Four Daughters owner Vicky Vogt, especially businesses with her daughters. She’s run an upholstery business, flipped houses, and managed an eBay business. All of the endeavors were successful. But it was time for Vicky, her husband Gary, and their daughters to try something new.

Enter Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery.

“I wanted to start a business that my daughters would be interested in moving home for. So that was the drive [to start Four Daughters],” Vicky explained.

At the time that Vicky and her family entered the wine industry in Minnesota, it was very new but growing rapidly. There were several variables and risks involved in opening a winery and vineyard, and her daughters wanted to wait before jumping into the process.

“And I said no. If we’re going to do it, we have to do it now,” Vicky said.

Vicky wrote the business plan for Four Daughters in 2010 and planted their first grapes that same year. The very first Four Daughters building opened in December 2011. Vicky and Gary even got two of their daughters to move back home to help run the business.

Expect a unique experience when visiting Four Daughters. This gem is tucked into rural Spring Valley, a thirty-minute drive directly south from Rochester. The entire Four Daughters estate includes a restaurant, tasting room, event room, six-acre vineyard, and fully operational winery and cidery.

Vicky and her family devote time to crafting the guest experience at Four Daughters. They realize that most people have never visited a winery before and want to ensure that their guests are comfortable. Usually Gary is walking around Four Daughters speaking with visitors. Even when I walked into the restaurant and gift shop before hours, I was welcomed in by the hostess who didn’t even bat an eye at someone wanting wine at 10AM on a Tuesday.

Four Daughters wants the combination of the food and the wine together to be an experience during visits. The restaurant holds special, reservation-only dinners on Thursday nights, featuring a handcrafted tasting menu with a food and wine pairing. Four Daughters constantly changes their menu and serves several different types of foods, from calamari to dumplings with an Asian flare.

Vicky’s family has been entrenched in wine production long before the doors at Four Daughters opened. Grape growing in Minnesota has some unique challenges compared to production in other areas of the country. Our climate here is damp and the grapes face mold and rot issues. It’s obviously a lot colder here than in wine country like California. Vineyards in Minnesota use special cold-hardy grape strains, many of which were developed at the University of Minnesota, that can survive temperatures down to thirty below zero. Vicky’s father was part of the Minnesota legislature in the 1980s; he fathered a bill appropriating funds to the University of Minnesota to study and develop these type of grapes. Unfortunately, he passed away in March 2010, at the time Vicky was writing the business plan for Four Daughters. But those same grapes made the restaurant and vineyard possible in the first place.

Four Daughters wines, made from these Minnesotan cold-hardy grapes, are popping up all over the place. They were served at the 2015 SXSW film festival. Four Daughters was even the Official Provider at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

How does a winery from Minnesota get into an international film festival? Apparently it takes a lot of time and the right connections. Ten years ago, Vicky created a large cancer research benefit and pulled in a band featuring Derek Hough and Mark Ballis from Dancing with the Stars to play. She became friends with their manager and poured at some of his documentary releases, which eventually led to Sundance.

Besides wine, Four Daughters also produces and distributes hard cider. The Four Daughters cider, called Loon Juice, additionally has strong Minnesotan roots. Honeycrisp apples, a fruit also developed at the University of Minnesota, makes up the base of the cider.

Five years after opening their doors, Four Daughters is still expanding. Quick growth is a challenge itself for the business.

“It’s hard to sometimes keep up with everything that you have to do to keep growing. We’ve been building since we’ve opened. And I’m hoping that next year will be a year we don’t build something. So we can just keep growing within the buildings that we have and continue that growth without a building project,” said Vicky.

Rochester Mom Opens eth'tique, the First Mobile Women's Fashion Boutique in the City

Chrissy Ries, female entrepreneur and mom of six, is bringing ethical fashion to the streets of Rochester.  Just last month Chrissy opened eth'tique, the first mobile clothing and accessory store in the city.

eth’tique is an “ethical women’s boutique,” selling clothing, jewelry, shoes, and handbags from small business owning mothers across the world who are making social and economic impact.  A purchase from eth’tique guarantees that no one in the line of product production was victimized or exploited.  If that’s not novel enough for you, Chrissy runs eth’tique out of the back of a truck.

As a stay at home mom, Chrissy first cut her teeth in retail selling fair trade jewelry.  “Then I became aware, through [the jewelry company] of a problem worldwide, where there’s these women that have these amazing skills, and men, that have these amazing skills and amazing talents and creativity that I don’t have.  And yet, they’re struggling to keep their children and their home and feed their children and send anybody to school and fight poverty because they don’t have the market where they’re at to sell what they can make,” she explained.

Chrissy saw a drastic need to create alternative economic possibilities for these mothers who were living in impoverished areas where there was just no spending power to purchase their products.  She also realized that people who did have this spending power often wanted to use their money in socially conscious ways, and use the funds to do good.  But as far as women’s fashion was concerned, “there’s no local option to try things on, to feel things, to touch things.”

Enter eth’tique. (Pronounced eth-teek).

Just last month, Chrissy launched eth’tique, her very first company, with the goal “to make stylish and ethical fashion accessible while empowering others around the globe”.  With eth’tique, she’s created a marketplace for mothers living in economically limited regions to sell their responsibly produced wares in areas with expendable cash flow.  Chrissy serves as the middleman, purchasing the fashion items from the women and bringing it to the American marketplace with eth’tique. 

“So [these women] have their own companies and they are driving social change in their own countries within, with them leading that change.  They know what they need.  They know what matters. …They know what their biggest needs are.  They just need to be able to make their business thrive so that they can drive that change themselves.  And so that’s where my role is.”     

Chrissy herself is the living manifestation of the eth’tique brand.  She is a small business owning mother, working to support her own children and effecting change for many other mothers whom she will never meet.  And she handpicks all the items sold by eth’tique.  Every time I’ve met her, she’s been wearing only eth’tique carried brands. 

eth’tique sells fashion products from all corners of the globe.  One eth’tique carried brand, called The Root Collective, produces hand-made Guatemalan shoes and provides jobs and opportunity to that region of Central America.  The shirt Chrissy wore on the day of this interview was from the Nepali based elegantees, a company launched by a victim of sex trafficking.  The eth’tique carried JOYN handbags are made in India.  “They’re all hand printed leather and hand signed by each person.  And they come with a little card that says this many jobs were created by this bag being made,” Chrissy explained.

Chrissy is constantly adding to the brands that eth’tique carries, helping to form a link in this chain of mothers to bring some piece of hope and change to even one life.  eth’tique also carries American-made brands, most of which are manufactured in the Los Angeles region. 

While eth’tique is a mobile fashion store, Chrissy also provides an online ordering option for those looking for streamlined convenience.  She also drives the truck in and around Rochester, traveling up to two hours outside of the city, for private parties.  With only eight RSVPs (in the Rochester area), eth’tique can drive right up to your doorstop to provide an afternoon of ethical shopping. 

“But the neat part that I’ve instituted as far as my private parties is trying to equip and enable people to give back to their local community or to Rochester.”

Each time you host an eth’tique private party, you receive 10% of the total revenue of that party as an in-store purchase credit.  Which is great if you’re eyeing up a more pricey item.

However, you can also choose to have that 10% revenue donated by eth’tique to a local charity or non-profit.  Or maybe you want to contribute to somebody’s adoption or mission trip.  The main goal is just to get people to start seeing need in the community and give back.

Opening eth’tique was a huge risk and life change for Chrissy.  She’s actually a trained nurse.  Besides her brief stint in direct jewelry sales, she had no other retail experience.  And she’s a very busy mom of six children, so a transition from stay-at-home-mom to small business owner was a major life decision.  

Chrissy explained that she didn’t have to work if she chose not to, a decision she recognizes is not the case for every American woman.  But her world would not have been impacted if she worked or not.

“And so there’s all these people across the world that want to work and can’t because nobody will buy what they can do. …If I was going to work, I wanted to make it work for somebody else as well.”

The idea of ethically manufactured women’s fashion, sold out of a truck, seemed like the perfect solution.  A mobile clothing boutique in Rochester is certainly a novelty.  The truck allowed for less overhead for starting a new business.  But more importantly, the truck allowed her more flexibility to be that mom to her children.  With the truck, she could set very flexible hours and work both from home and on the road.

I first met Chrissy at the eth’tique grand opening on June 18th in the Forager Brewing Company parking lot.  Her time as a female entrepreneur so far has been “very, very busy.  It’s been fun.  There’s been a lot of things I didn’t know.”

The biggest thing she’s had to sift out: figuring out what products will be good sellers.  Finding a balance between home and work life has also been no walk in the park.

“I carry a big load between everything on my plate.  And I want to.  It’s making me a more complete person, but it’s still a lot to figure out.”

Want to find the eth’tique truck around Rochester or book a private party?  Check out the eth’tique website and Facebook page for the latest information.